“What if we were already there?”

stone path
What would life look like if you were actually present for the experience.
by Carol Hendershot

One of my students shared this lovely story with me about her vacation in Japan.

“My friend and I were rushing all over Tokyo in search of the perfect restaurant, perfect store, perfect whatever….. and my friend stopped me in my tracks. “Kathleen, how about if we just say we are already there.”

That was a profound moment for her…she realized how much she had missed by being so busy moving to the next thing and not enjoying the experience as it unfolded.

Does that sound familiar? It sure does to me.

Last week, I was on retreat in northern California for ten days and the whole point of the retreat was to be in the moment. For the first three days, it seemed like I was anywhere but there, by the fourth day, it was getting better, the fifth day I was off in dreamland again. Fortunately, there were wonderful teachers that just kept guiding me back with kindness until I could start guiding myself back. The next two days were lovely and then I started thinking about coming home… That is what it’s like to be human.

Research tells us that none of us are immune to this experience of missing out on our life. According to a Harvard study, we are lost in thoughts, plans, memories, and worry, 47% of the time. That means if you lived to be 100 you would lose 47 years of your life. I don’t know about you but that sounds like a big deal to me.

So, how do we live our lives more fully? How do we show up? It seems like we could just decide to do it, but my experience is that it is not that easy. It takes practice. Going on retreat is a great way to kick-start the process but you can also do it right where you are.

Here are three ways to start building more presence into your life! Three ways to ‘act as if you are already there.’

1. Awareness – You can be aware that you have these tendencies of mind. You don’t have to beat yourself up, just notice when the mind is off on some tangent or another and bring it back to the moment. Refocus your attention on what’s happening right now.

2. Intention – You can take a look at what you really want in life. If that lines up with the benefits of presence, such as: better relationships, more calm and ease, and more vivid experiences, you can set your intention to make presence a priority.

3. Practice – Because awareness and intention are skills that need to be practiced, find places in your life where you can practice really being here. Build some cues into your day.

  • When you sit down to eat, stop and really see the colors of the food; smell it, taste it, just for a few bites
  • When you talk to a friend, stop and take in their face and their voice for a moment, really be with them
  • When you step into the shower in the morning, stop and feel the water on your skin and enjoy the sensation
    before you get caught up in planning your day

As fall begins, I wish you many beautiful days of vivid color, crisp scents, and fun with friends. Drink it all in.